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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Hotel for Dogs (review)

I do confess I was afeared of the potential for a funny-hat montage: it’s the kind of thing you expect from kids’ movie that features just about every kind of cute, ugly, cute-ugly, and funny-looking dog imaginable. But there was none of that here. There was, I concede, a bit with dogs on treadmills, but that is always hilarious, as well as the inevitable three-legged dog to tug at your heartstrings, just in case you’d been skipped over in the heartstring-tugging queue. Yes, this charmingly silly, sincerely sweet movie — based on a young adult novel by Lois Duncan [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.] — isn’t going to appeal much beyond the grade-school set, but parents won’t be too terribly bored; in fact, it feels much more like the classic, gentle family films of the 1970s we grew up with than the slapstick grossouts that pass for kids’ films today. Plus, there’s this: This is the story of a teenage girl (Emma Roberts: Nancy Drew) who is the hero of a story that has nothing to do with being a princess, finding or keeping a boyfriend, or, indeed, doing anything at the instigation or direction of a male. Her little brother (Jake T. Austin: Everyone’s Hero) does help her set up a jury-rigged shelter for street animals in a rundown hotel — the gadgets he invents to help with the dogs’ care are clever and funny — but she is the boss. She’s a far better role model than tweens typically get at the movies these days. (Oh, and really, folks: please spay and neuter your dogs, adopt from shelters instead of paying puppy mills, and support no-kill shelters, mmkay?)

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MPAA: rated PG for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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